In my opinion | Linda Robertson

Local high school football not to be missed

 

Thursday’s key games

• Varela vs. Coral Reef (at Southridge), 4 p.m.

• North Miami Beach vs. Jackson (at Traz Powell Stadium), 7 p.m.

• Douglas vs. West Broward (at Flanagan), 7p.m.

• Piper vs. Hollywood Hills (at McArthur), 7 p.m.


lrobertson@MiamiHerald.com

So you’re weary of the irrelevance of the Miami Dullphins? Yawning about the inevitability of the Crimson Tide rolling in Alabama?

Yearning for genuine drama rather than the phony kind on reality TV?

Look no further than your South Florida backyard. High school football season kicks off this week. Hang on for another wild ride. See tomorrow’s superstars today. Look forward to multiple state champions — and perhaps a national one, too.

Nothing beats the entertainment value of high school football. Blinding speed. Raw emotion. Whiplashing unpredictability. Broken plays, broken hearts. Teenage heroes lifted upon the shoulders of teammates while they lift entire neighborhoods upon theirs.

Each game — encompassing cheerleaders, marching bands, coaches on the sideline and parents in the stands — promises the condensed delight of a Chekhov short story, perfect in its imperfection.

Powerhouses Miami Northwestern High and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas play Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, providing a showcase for St. Thomas wide receiver Corey Holmes, running back Mardre London and defensive back Al Harris Jr. Another cross-county clash features Homestead at Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson on Friday, and the battle between Homestead’s Ermon Lane, rated the No. 1 receiver in the nation, and Boyd Anderson defensive back Derrick Tindal. Miami Central plays at Plantation American Heritage on Friday and will have to contain running back Sony Michel to avoid an upset.

Do not miss Central vs. Miami Booker T. Washington on Sept. 6 at Traz Powell Stadium. Both teams are defending state champions in their classifications. Booker T. is ranked No.1 in the country in two major polls, and Central is ranked No. 1 in another. Can either team remain undefeated? Local fans get to see two of the very best right here.

Booker T. overwhelmed Georgia’s Norcross High 55-0 last week. Norcross was ranked No. 6 in the nation at the time but wouldn’t even make the top six in Florida after being run over by the Tornadoes. Family ties are strong in Overtown: Quarterback Treon Harris is the son of coach Tim “Ice” Harris and brother of assistant coach Tim Jr. and NFL defensive back Brandon.

Booker T. will be doing more chasing against Central and its dynamic backfield duo of Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook, who combined to rush for 2,900 yards last season. They play defense, too, and Cook’s 99-yard interception return was instrumental in Central’s comeback victory over Booker T. in 2012.

To quantify the quality of South Florida’s teams, consider that even Hialeah’s tiny Champagnat Catholic boasts a handful of top-flight college recruits and the best defensive lineman in Miami-Dade — Travonte Valentine.

Former University of Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger planted an orange and green flag in the oolite and proclaimed he could win a national title with recruits from the “state of Miami.” That’s even truer today, except that colleges from Oregon to Michigan to New Jersey are mining the deepest vein of talent in the United States. On Friday, when UM’s 1983 championship team is honored, notice that 35 of the 89 players hailed from South Florida.

Thirty years later, three high school teams ranked in USA Today’s top 10 are South Florida schools (Booker T., Central, St. Thomas) compared with two each from the states of Texas and California.

South Florida produced four state champs in 2012 (Booker T., Central, St. Thomas and Davie University School) and two state runners-up (Weston Cypress Bay and Dade Christian), which means our hot corner of the peninsula competed for titles in six of seven classifications. Miami Jackson lost in the state semifinals.

Coaches from other states are said to study water samples from this epicenter of football nirvana. But there’s nothing magical about rich tradition, the dedication of coaches from the youth league level on up and the commitment of athletes who know the long odds of making it as a pro.

“The kids put in so much work year-round, and that is overlooked,” said Carlton Wright, Central class of 1984, an ex-linebacker who is president of the booster club. “Think back to the success of a guy like Elvis Peacock. Kids want to uphold that, and the good ones understand what it takes. I like hearing, ‘I want to be a Rocket.’ Neighborhood pride is back.”

From the top teams to the bottom, games don’t draw the way they used to. It’s proof of fragmented communities, sapped school spirit, changing traditions. A generation ago, the only place students and their families would be on Friday nights was under the stadium lights.

It’s time to return. High school football in South Florida is as good as it gets, anywhere.

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